Hans Vestberg, CFO and incoming-CEO, Ericsson
What makes him powerful: If there's one quality that Hans Vestberg seems to exude most, it is confidence. Following the announcement in June that Vestberg would be taking over as CEO at the end of the year when Ericsson's current chief executive, Carl-Henric Svanberg, departs to become the chairman of BP, Vestberg demonstrated why he was the man chosen for the top spot. In a series of interviews immediately after the announcement, Vestberg came across as both a stalwart replacement who had been groomed to be CEO and an acolyte of Svanberg's who praised his leadership. The takeaway was that Vestberg would not rock the boat, and that he would help Ericsson maintain its position as the top global mobile infrastructure vendor.
Vestberg joined Ericsson in 1991, the same year he graduated from the University of Uppsala in Sweden. He rose through the ranks, and after serving in various regional managerial positions, he was named the head of Ericsson's services business in 2003 and executive vice president in 2005, before becoming CFO in 2007.
Despite his rapid rise, or perhaps because of it, Vestberg appears to have a clear-eyed view of what it will take to keep Ericsson on sound competitive and financial footing. He has reiterated Ericsson's commitment to its handset joint venture, Sony Ericsson, beating back rumors from earlier in the year that the company was looking to sell its stake. Vestberg also has said he wants to build Ericsson through organic growth; during the company's third quarter earnings conference call, Vestberg said that Ericsson's $1.45 billion cost-cutting program would be extended.
It's not easy at the top, and Ericsson will have several challenges to meet as Vestberg transitions. The company will have to work to score additional LTE deals as the network technology becomes the dominant theme among operators, and Ericsson also will have to decide how it will combat low-cost Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE. Nonetheless, the top spot is Ericsson's--and Vestberg's--to lose. --Phil